Submitted by Dr. Don Longbottom
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Friday and Saturday of this past week I was privileged to meet with the South Central Conference Board of Directors. We had more than a few laughs but mostly we did the business of the conference. Doing the business of the conference means looking at the goals and priorities of the conference which includes Slumber Falls Camp and envisioning how we can do our best to produce favored outcomes.
Many excellent outcomes are happening as I write this article. The grounds at Camp are looking stellar. Jeremy and his staff have done excellent work as stewards of your camp and God’s natural world. In addition, we are offering new programs while also aggressively reaching out to potential customers. If you get a chance drive out to Slumber Falls and sit a spell. The usage of the camp is up and consequently, so are finances. We project another deficit this budgetary year but we are gaining ground.
The pastoral side of life is also going well. Congregations are experiencing real success in transitioning pastoral leadership. The national church in partnership with the conference serves as kind of a “mid-wife” in the birthing of a new pastoral relationship in congregations.
Inevitably, there are many untold stories in the life narrative of congregations. Life together is not always easy. Feathers get ruffled, feelings hurt, egos damaged. The life of a Conference Minister consists to a significant extent in fixing what can be fixed before it becomes permanently damaged. In pursuit of the priorities of the conference I typically drive 2,000 miles per month in addition to between 6 and 9 flights to New Orleans annually. The obligations of a Conference Minister also include some from the national office but be assured I seek to keep these to a minimum.
Most Sunday’s of most months will find me in the pulpit or in attendance at one of our congregations around the conference. Is this level of travel necessary? I believe so. Social media is a wonderful thing but it’s no substitute for shaking someone’s hand, looking them in the eye, and letting them know you care enough to show up. We have a wonderful diversity of congregations and people. I continue to be impressed by the vitality of our congregations from the rural areas to the urban.
We are awesome but we are not financially viable long term. We are not in the emergency room as we do possess significant financial assets in reserve but we have an approximate annual deficit of $75,000. While there is no immediate danger, this cannot continue.
The conference raises money in two ways. First, most of our congregations have a budgetary category called OCWM (Our Churches Wider Mission). Most of this money remains with the Conference and a portion is passed up to the national church for such works as legal representation, programs for missions and the maintenance of the “Employment Opportunity” system that assists congregations in locating new clergy. This is the time when congregations are establishing their budgets for the coming year. Being literal for a moment; Your conference needs a raise. I am not saying that I need a raise because I don’t, but the work that we do as a conference needs more funding. Please consider this as you set your budgets for the coming year.
The second way conference raises money is through our “Friends of the Conference” program. This approach requests individual commitments to the conference. In this newsletter, you will see a copy of our pledge card. Please support your conference and camp by sending a gift. Our deficit is significant but we are fully able to overcome the challenge.
Let me again tell you how I enjoy visiting our congregations. We live in interesting times and we are certainly interesting people. All in all, it makes my job interesting.
May God give you a joyful day,